27/November/2009 Filed in: Jottings
The publication of the Commission of Investigation's Report into the Catholic Diocese of Dublin has shocked those who have read it and shamed all who must acknowledge a personal or institutional failure to deal with the abuse it records. I have never understood why some Churchmen (not only Catholic Churchmen) seem to make light of such a serious matter, nor have I ever been comfortable with the way in which, for example, priests "under a cloud" have sometimes been sent to houses of nuns to withdraw them from the public gaze. Quite apart from the contempt that shows, surely everyone realizes that paedophiles are highly manipulative and cannot be "policed" by cloistered religious or anyone else? Moving the problem on is not to deal with it.
The worrying thing about the publication of this report is that we may not learn the lessons. In our revulsion at what has happened we may simply condemn the whole Church as being corrupt from top to bottom, holding those presently serving responsible for what occurred in the past. That is dangerous, typical of the lack of historical perspective now common in our public debate. As members of the Church we can acknowledge the sinfulness of what has been done, express our sorrow and shame, our determination not to allow similar things to happen in the future (present Safeguarding procedures in this diocese, for example, are excellent though no procedure will ever be sufficient protection against someone determined to do wrong). We can also seek to make reparation in some way, but we cannot undo what has happened, cannot, I think, apologize in any meaningful sense for what we ourselves had no part in. Sin remains sin although redeemed. Many, however, will expect an apology; will demand that we all be held responsible; will assume that what happened in Dublin happened elsewhere. No doubt there will be a rush of legal cases seeking financial compensation. Given the tacky concern of some to preserve their financial assets at all costs, that may seem fitting, but am I alone in recalling that when similar cases occurred in the diocese of Boston it was the poor who suffered most from the closure of Church schools and hospitals (oh, and the sisters, whose convents were sold to pay the debts incurred by the diocese)? If one good deed can have untold consequences, so, sadly, can an evil one; and it is always the most vulnerable who suffer.Web Conference
Preparations are under way for our second public Virtual Chapter at 2.00 p.m. GMT tomorrow. There is still time to submit a question/topic for discussion (or you can make your point live during the Chapter). Several of the questions sent in concern the living of a Benedictine spirituality in the world, so tomorrow we shall explore some of the following:
- how can a lay person "live" the Rule of St Benedict?
- how can a lay person live a life of prayer?
- does being an oblate help?
- why are Benedictine communities all so different?
and, in lighter vein (?),
- why did you become a nun?
If we get round to that last question, let's hope there are several nuns taking part, not just those from Hendred!